It’s the often shared second stage of grief.
Those stages don’t apply to the death of a baby directly (they were created for people with a terminal diagnosis) but it’s still something I see my clients struggle with over and over so today we’re going to talk all about anger and I’ll give you my take on why we feel it so often, why it feels so hard to overcome and how to deal with that hot fire of rage that spills out and burns everything near you.
You’re not alone in feeling this way and you can know what to do about it.
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Hey friends, and welcome to episode one 20. We are talking about anger and it’s just been coming up a lot lately with my clients, with um, just people in general. We’ve got an election going on today here in the United States, and a lot of people are angry for a lot of reasons in the state I live in.
There have been. It seems like an excessive amount of road rage incidents where people have actually been killed, um, because someone cut them off and they pulled over and wanted to start something and. It’s, it’s everywhere if you look. So that is why I wanted to talk about this today, and I hope this is really, really helpful for you.
And if you know anybody who maybe struggles with this, um, if you kindly wanna share, I would really, really appreciate your shares. That’s what helps the podcast grow and helps more lost parents to be able to really find themselves and be able to manage their mind and their emotions and their grief. So I want you to put your hand up if you’ve been angry lately, it seems like more and more people are feeling like they aren’t able to control their anger, and it’s just showing up in so many parts of their lives.
Could be at work, at home, on the road, online, there is a ton to learn about anger, and I’m gonna do my best in this episode to explain where it’s coming from and what to do about it. If you are struggling with anger in your life, But if you’re feeling out of control and angry and you just can’t seem to make any headway on it, please come to a connection call.
It’s a conversation where you tell me what you’re struggling with, and I’ll tell you how coaching can help. I personally think that everyone needs a life coach, but especially lost parents. You don’t have to keep doing the same things and just hating yourself for it. I can help you let go of some of this anger and learn to love yourself and, and really just move through it in the way that you want to.
So there will be a link in the show notes. Just go click on it. It’s really easy. Or you can go to smooth stones coaching.com and sign up there. Super easy. No pressure. I love just talking to you and yeah, so go ahead and do it, um, because I know that it, it just feels awful after you blow up. So I have some questions for you.
What do you do when you’re. Angry that you don’t like. For a lot of people what I hear is it’s yelling, being unkind is saying things you regret later. Maybe getting physical in ways you don’t like. Your heart is beating fast, your blood pressure’s up. If it. If it happens where you react openly, you might experience a lot of shame when you realize what has happened, especially if it was in public or with those you love most.
You know, you don’t wanna act this way, but it just keeps happening and nothing you have tried has helped, and you feel like something must really be wrong with you. When you feel this kind of anger, where do you think it’s coming from? And what is the story you tell? Well, maybe you grew up in a home where there was a lot of anger and or abuse or yelling.
Maybe your kids drive you crazy and they won’t li listen. Maybe you’re just so mad that your baby died, that everything sets you off. The little thing like your pen not working, has you throwing it across the room, or your sister-in-law will not stop complaining about her pregnancy. Or maybe you’re just tired and stressed and you find that the anger bubbles up a lot easier when you’re feeling that way.
Most of the time when we are mad, we blame it on everything around us. That’s what we’ve been taught to do, and that’s what our brains want to do. It’s easy to blame our anger on others. It is harder to take responsibility, but taking responsibility is where you’re gonna find freedom. In coaching, we talk a lot about how our thoughts create our feelings, but with anger, it really seems like there is no thought, and that’s a really common question I get right?
It’s just that fiery red heat, it comes outta nowhere and you can’t figure out what the thought is. And sometimes that is actually true. So let’s learn why, because. Understanding our brain helps us understand ourselves. Now, I was researching and I found this website that just put this so perfectly in a clear way, um, that we all can understand, and it was on a website called mental health.net.
And I just wanna read what they wrote and what they shared. So I’m gonna quote them as they talk about these emotions in our nervous system and anger and what is going on. It says emotions more or less begin inside two almond sheep structures in our brains, which are called the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the brain responsible for identifying threats to our wellbeing and sending out an alarm when threats are identified that result in us taking steps to protect ourselves.
The amygdala is so efficient at warning us about threats that it. Gets us reacting before the cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for thought and judgment, is able to check on the reasonableness of our actions. In other words, our brains are wired in such a way as to influence us to act before we can properly consider the consequences of our actions, and that is what I call the higher brain and the lower brain, right?
Like the lower brain is just gonna snap and do what it needs to do to protect you when it feels like there’s a threat. Uh, but in our today’s world, a lot of times it’s not an actual physical threat to our lives. It’s just all these other things that are going on around us that are kind of setting us off.
Now, this is not an excuse for behaving badly. People can and do control their aggressive impulses, and you can too with some practice. Instead, it means learning to manage anger properly is a skill that has to be learned instead of something we are born knowing how to do Instinctually as you become angry, your body’s muscles tense up in inside your brain.
Neurotransmitter chemicals known as. Oh, I’m gonna get this wrong. CATA means are released causing you to experience a burst of energy lasting up to several minutes. This burst of energy is behind the common angry desire to take immediate protective action. At the same time, your heart rate accelerates, your blood pressure rises and your rate of breathing increases.
Your face may flush is increased blood flow enters your limbs and extremities. In preparation for physical action, your attention narrows and becomes locked onto the target of your anger. Soon you can pay attention to nothing else in quick succession, additional brain neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and no adrenaline are released, which trigger a lasting state of arousal.
And now you’re ready to fight. Although it is possible for your emotions to rage outta control, the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which is located just behind your forehead, can keep your emotions in proportion. If the amygdala handles emotion, the prefrontal cortex handles judgment. The left prefrontal cortex can switch off your emotions.
It serves as in its. Executive role to keep things under control. Getting control of your anger means learning ways to help your prefrontal cortex get the upper hand over your amygdala so that you have control over how you react to anger feelings. Among the many ways to make this happen are relaxation techniques which reduce your arousal.
Indi. Decrease your ag oh my goodness, which reduce your arousal and decrease your amygdala activity and the use of cognitive control techniques which help you practice using your judgment to override your emotional reactions. That is the end of the quote. Uh, so something I talk. A lot about with my clients is this part, and I call it increasing the gap.
I actually have, um, an entire episode on that, just like widening that gap between feeling the emotions. Or having a nervous system response and feeling that anger, but increasing the time between what we feel and our reaction. If we do that, we’re gonna be able to be more of who we want to be, because most of us don’t need that rage to protect us, but we’re just feeling it in everyday situations that are not dangerous, like I said.
And the more often we are angry, the harder it is to come down and return to normal. Just like a healthy heart has a quicker recovery. So it will be with you if you understand your anger and practice processing it without overreacting. And that’s what we’re gonna learn today, right? A lot of times we think or we see out there that like if you just go punch something or go, you know, go.
Knock down a wall at a construction site or do all these things that it will release the anger and sometimes it does. Sometimes like getting in your body and just letting it out or primal screams. I’ve seen a lot of that lately. Like let out a primal scream that might release some of that nervous system.
Right. That might help you. But in what I read and as I researched it, was really talking about the more we kind of react to our anger, The harder it is to not react. So that’s where we can get in a cycle and a pattern where we are constantly just reacting and our brain builds that pathway to react and we don’t usually wanna react.
That’s, it’s not our best selves, right? When we just react to our anger without. Letting our brain slow it down and calm it down. Uh, so that’s what we’re gonna learn today, right? How do we widen that gap? How do we deal with our anger? If you are thinking you can’t do this, I want you to think about something that sets you off.
Then imagine you are in a room with the person you respect most in the world. Would you lose it in front of them or would you keep yourself under control? 99.9% of people would handle. Their reactions. If they got angry in front of like the most respected person, they know what we call, you know, I’m gonna say quote unquote reality tv, which we know is so vague, has made it seem normal to flip tables and have dramatic outbursts, but it’s just not a super healthy way to live your life as we keep reacting in these ways to our anger.
I’m thinking about poor Kate Middleton, who is on camera every second, that she’s out with her children, and how her little boy is acting like a regular child in public and doing all kinds of things. Um, I think there was even recently one where he had kind of like smacked her in the face or pushed her.
You know, he’s, he’s wiggly. He’s, he doesn’t wanna sit still. He doesn’t wanna be where he is. And she has to stay calm, cool, and collected. And she has obviously practiced this a lot and perhaps it’s her nature to be patient, but I can’t help thinking She for sure must be a little annoyed on the inside, but you’d never know it.
Now, I’m not saying you should hold all your emotions in either. But she is an example of someone who is cool under pressure because she has practiced it. She does not react overtly, and I think if any of us were in her presence, her Serenas would probably rub off because we would believe that we could react like she does as well.
So maybe channel your inner Kate Middleton next time you feel anger bubbling up and it’s kind of interesting total side note, but. I remember Kate Middleton and also Kim Kardashian were both pregnant with their first babies at the exact same time that Lauren died. Um, and they had their babies right after Lauren died.
So I kind of always have that connection with her and kind of all the Royal Baby News and the Kardashian baby news was very much, um, In my face when I was grieving. So, um, but I’m just really happy they got their healthy babies. Back to our subject. Let’s talk about anger as a secondary emotion. This is something that was so profound for me to learn, um, as I was doing coach training.
We talked a lot about this. Anger is very often an emotion that arises to cover up another emotion that we don’t wanna feel. Now this happens quickly, so you need to be paying attention to see what’s going on. Um, a very good visual of this is to imagine anger as the tip of an iceberg. It’s what we can see because it’s generally more of an obvious thing, but under the surface there is very often shame, fear.
Doubt, insecurity, humiliation, rejection in so many more emotions. I want you to think about the last time you got angry. What was it about? Then? Look under the surface, what was it really about? What were you really upset about? Uh, a common thing I get angry about is my kids not cleaning up. And I will ask them nicely multiple times and they don’t do it.
And then all of a sudden, mom is yelling, I grew up with yelling in my home and I hated it, and I promised myself I would never do it. Does that sound familiar to any of you? Um, or maybe you’re raising rainbow babies and you’re so grateful for them, and you never thought you’d get angry, but then you do.
And the guilt gets really big. But I digress. When I get mad about the messy house, generally what I’m really feeling is shame. Shame that I can’t keep the house cleaner. Um, shame that I can’t motivate my kids. I might feel disrespected because I have a story about them listening to me, right? Like they should listen to me and they should just do what they’re told the first time.
Then I feel shame again because if I was a better mom, I would be able to have them do chores willingly. Um, but spoiler alert. No children are ever going to do chores willingly. They aren’t gonna want to, nobody wants to do dishes or clean bathrooms, right? Even us. Um, but part of my reaction is probably a practice nervous system response.
I remember as a kid being so. Like activated when people would come to the door because of what our house might look like. And so that fear of judgment doesn’t feel safe and I react, but underneath the anger is really shame and it seems easier to blame my kids than to own my shame. In that way, anger is serving me because it’s blocking me from other emotions in the moment, but in the long run, I’m really not being the person I want to be, which is a calm and kind mother who can handle her emotions and doesn’t blame it on her children.
Right. As you open up to this and exploring this, Be super compassionate. This isn’t something you need to fix. It’s a place where you need to add extra love and understanding. But it’s so powerful to know just that truth. That anger is a secondary emotion, which means it’s very often covering up something else.
When you can figure out what that is, you’re gonna have a whole bunch of power back. Okay, let’s talk about anger as a stage of grief. The five stages of grief by Elizabeth Kubler Ross were created to describe the process someone with a terminal illness goes through after their diagnosis. Somehow it got picked up and has been held up as a gold standard of all grief processing.
This has not been helpful. In fact, it’s probably been pretty harmful to a lot of grieving people, so I never use those stages here. But anger is a part of grief for most people. You may be angry with God, angry with your doctors, angry with yourself, angry at every pregnant person you see, angry at your friends who don’t get it, and your family who keeps telling you to just get over it.
You might just be angry that suffering exists at all, like just angry at the universe. If you’re feeling this kind of anger in response to your loss, first I validate what you’re feeling. Of course, you’re angry, something you love so much, didn’t get to stay. Your dreams of the future changed dramatically.
Without your consent, your brain is probably using anger to cover up what you really don’t wanna feel, which is the pit of despair and sadness. You don’t even wanna dip your toe in cuz it feels like it will swallow you whole. You can let yourself feel some anger. That’s not a problem. The only shift I want you to do is own it.
Know that you are creating it. If and when you’re tired of being grief, angry, I have some tips for you. First, allow it and process it. That means instead of reacting outwardly by throwing things, yelling, stopping around, resisting it by shoving it down or avoiding it by drinking, staying busy or scrolling on your phone, you can actually feel it in your body.
Describe it. Invited in. Notice your skin, flush your heart rate, increase your breathing, intensify, and just let it be. As you do this, your anger will last for a little while and probably start to dissipate. You can do this intentionally when you have quiet time, or you can do it in the moment. Use somatic techniques to calm your nervous system at this stage as well.
You can’t thought, work yourself out of a nervous system reaction. You need to get in your body. And I want you to name what’s happening. Say this is anger. I see you anger. I love you. Anger. Once you stop fighting the anger, explore its roots by seeing what’s underneath. When you can see it, you can address it.
Notice what you’re thinking about yourself. Do some journaling around these thoughts, feelings, and all your judgements. Notice where you’re resisting reality. If you are angry at other people. Why? Why are you angry? If you’re angry at God? Why? If you’re angry at random pregnant people, why? Ask yourself, is it useful?
Feeling angry is not very comfortable. I personally prefer to feel peace, but when you’re ready, you can let it go and let go of the stuff you’re thinking and find peace yourself. You can start processing your. Real deepen the water feelings instead of covering them up with anger. All of this part that I’m sharing here is a lot easier with a coach.
When you work with me, I’ll help you figure out what’s really at the root of your anger, what is under the surface, and then we’ll lovingly go through this process together. You know, if you’re ready to do this work, just trust yourself. Go hop on that connection call if this is speaking to you. The last thing I wanna talk about is your relationship with your anger.
What do you think about your anger today? Is it a problem? Do you see it as a weakness of yours? Is it a major character flaw that you can’t control? What is a story you tell about you and your anger that is a relationship in a relationship is simply your thoughts about something or someone else. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you know, anger is represented by this.
Fiery little man with the red, the flames for hair, and he is bopping around. Uh, just overreacting a lot. What does your anger look like? Take some time and draw it. Write about it or sit and imagine your anger. What color is it? What do you know about it? Notice any judgements you have of it. Like in my example before, we have so many thoughts about our anger that are not gonna create a good relationship with it.
And maybe you’ve never even thought of that. Like why would I want to have a good relationship with my anger? Because hating a part of yourself is hating you. It is a part of you. So what if you just tried loving it instead of rejecting it? Be open and curious as you explore. I know some really powerful moms who are angry that we are not lowering stillbirth rates in the US and we are not educating parents to protect their children with kick counting.
Those moms and those parents and those doctors, they might feel their anger is a good thing that motivates them. Many injustices have been overturned by people who had had enough. What I want you to notice is how you are relating to your anger. For most people, there’s a lot of shame around it and they hate it.
Like I said, it is not useful to hate parts of you. What helps the most is to love and understand these parts of you. I cannot say that enough times. You’re not gonna hate yourself into change. Even as you listen to this, if anything has felt a little like I’m looking right into your life through your window or into your heart, don’t be ashamed.
You’re a human. Humans get angry. You are still worthy and whole, and nothing you can do will change that. We wanna learn all of this only to grow as a person because we’re also wired for growth. I encourage you to take just one thing that stood out to you in this episode and practice it this week. And then come follow me on Instagram.
I’m at Amy dot Smooth Stones Coaching, and we’re gonna continue this discussion over there. You can DM me anytime. I would love to chat with you. I’ll see you next time. Are you tired of feeling like your baby’s dad was somehow your fault? Go to Stones coaching.com and get my free mini course. How to Stop blaming Yourself After Loss.